How to call a function inside itself?


I have a function that generates a key of 4 characters that has to be unique for each time. In order to do that, the function first generates a key, and then checks a database table to see if it's in use by someone else.

If it's not in use, it returns the key, else, it calls itself again, but this causes the function to do an infinite loop, which is a no-no. Here's the whole function:

function key_generator($length = 4)
    // I've subsequently left out the generating code,
    // which is not necesarry in this case

    $key = 'xxxx';

    if ($this->user_model->valid_key($key) == true)
        return $key;

What is the correct way to call the function again?

By the way, I'm using CodeIgniter, hence $this.

10/23/2009 9:14:28 AM

Accepted Answer

I would not use recursive functions for retry-scenarios (since you don't reuse the result of the function, it's pointless to use recursion)... It adds a lot of unnecessary overhead. Do something like this:

do {
    $key = ...; // Generate your key here...
} while (!$this->user_model->valid_key($key));

return $key;

If you're near the maximum number of keys, this will result in very long loop times, so you might want to put some kind of max limit.

Oh, and if this is occurring on multiple threads simultaneously and you're checking a database, you should implement table write locking so that the same key can't be inserted twice. Preferably the function that checks whether a key is available should lock, check, and if available write in the same transaction to avoid any collisions.

10/23/2009 9:12:21 AM

You need to return the result of the self-call, otherwise the valid key won't get returned once it recurses.

return $this->key_generator($length);

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